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ARTICLE 19 submits comments to World Bank Information Policy Review

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 27 May 2009 - The Global Transparency Initiative, of which ARTICLE 19 is a founding member, provided two submissions on 22 May 2009 to the World Bank's formal review of its information disclosure policy. One is the GTI's Model World Bank Policy on Disclosure of Information, our statement of what an ideal Bank disclosure policy should look like. The other is our Comments on the World Bank's Approach Paper, Toward Greater Transparency: Rethinking the World Bank's Disclosure Policy.

ARTICLE 19 and the GTI welcome efforts by the World Bank to review their Policy on Disclosure of Information, which currently fails to conform to best practice at other International Financial Institutions (IFIs), as well as international standards on openness, as encapsulated in the GTI's Transparency Charter for International Financial Institutions: Claiming our Right to Know.

The GTI was founded in 2004 with a mandate to promote openness at the IFIs, which we believe is essential to holding these institutions to account, to improving development effectiveness and limiting potential negative impact, and to building local ownership and control.

We particularly welcome the Bank's call for a "paradigm shift" in access to Bank-held information, and its commitment to move to a true presumption of openness, whereby all Bank information is accessible, subject only to a list of narrow and clearly defined exceptions.

Our analysis of the Approach Paper, however, as detailed in our Comments, indicates that the Bank's concrete proposals fail to implement this stated commitment in practice. Some of the GTI's key criticisms of the proposals are:

- The lack of a clear vision on the links between openness, poverty reduction and the Bank's overarching "empowerment" mandate.

- An overly broad regime of exceptions which grants third parties a veto over disclosure and which are not harm-based.

- The absence of a proper test for disclosure in the overall public interest.

- The failure to provide for an independent appeals body.

- The lack of clear progress on timely access to information for participation in decision-making, in particular for project affected peoples.

ARTICLE 19 and the GTI recognise that it is easier to criticise that to create. The Model World Bank Policy is our positive statement of the approach which we believe an IFI disclosure policy should take. It provides a strong statement of the right to information, alongside practical provisions to give effect to this right, including:

- A commitment to the automatic disclosure of a wide range of information, including to facilitate participation in decision-making.

- Clear and progressive rules on the processing of requests.

- A narrow regime of exceptions (constraints) based on a clear risk of harm to protected interests and a public interest override.

- A broad right to appeal refusals to disclose information to the Inspection Panel, an oversight body which is independent of Bank management.

- A strong and yet practical set of promotional measures to ensure fulsome implementation of the policy.

We urge the Bank to take both our criticisms and our vision, as set out in the Model Policy, into account when preparing its draft information disclosure policy. We also call on the Bank to release a draft policy in a timely fashion to allow for public comment and input before a revised policy is sent to the Board for approval.

ARTICLE 19's Model Policy
ARTICLE 19's Comments

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